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For richer or for poorer: Marriage as an antipoverty strategy

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  • Adam Thomas

    (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC)

  • Isabel Sawhill

    (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC)

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    Abstract

    This study examines the effects of changes in family structure on children's economic well-being. An initial shift-share analysis indicates that, had the proportion of children living in female-headed families remained constant since 1970, the 1998 child poverty rate would have been 4.4 percentage points lower than its actual 1998 level of 18.3 percent. The March 1999 Current Population Survey is then used to conduct a second analysis in which marriages are simulated between single mothers and demographically similar, unrelated males. The microsimulation analysis addresses some of the shortcomings of the shift-share approach by making it possible to account for the possibility of a shortage of marriageable men, to control for unobservable differences between married men and women and their unmarried counterparts, and to measure directly the effects of increases in marriage on the economic well-being of children. Results from the microsimulation analysis suggest that, had the proportion of children living in female-headed families remained constant since 1970, the child poverty rate would have been 3.4 percentage points lower than its actual 1998 level. Among children whose mother participated in a simulated marriage, the poverty rate would have fallen by almost two-thirds. © 2002 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.10075
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 4 ()
    Pages: 587-599

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:21:y:2002:i:4:p:587-599

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    Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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    1. Lerman, Robert I, 1996. "The Impact of the Changing US Family Structure on Child Poverty and Income Inequality," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(250), pages S119-39, Suppl..
    2. Blackburn, McKinley & Korenman, Sanders, 1994. "The Declining Marital-Status Earnings Differential," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 247-70, July.
    3. Lerman, Robert I, 1989. "Employment Opportunities of Young Men and Family Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 62-66, May.
    4. Ellwood, David T & Crane, Jonathan, 1990. "Family Change among Black Americans: What Do We Know?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 65-84, Fall.
    5. Cornwell, Christopher & Rupert, Peter, 1997. "Unobservable Individual Effects, Marriage and the Earnings of Young Men," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 285-94, April.
    6. Robert A. Nakosteen & Michael A. Zimmer, 1987. "Marital Status and Earnings of Young Men: A Model with Endogenous Selection," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 248-268.
    7. Chun, Hyunbae & Lee, Injae, 2001. "Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 307-19, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 2013. "Cohabitation and the Uneven Retreat from Marriage in the U.S., 1950-2010," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Kristen Harknett, 2009. "Why are Children with Married Parents Healthier? The Case of Pediatric Asthma," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 347-365, June.
    3. Espinosa, Javier & Evans, William N., 2008. "Heightened mortality after the death of a spouse: Marriage protection or marriage selection?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1326-1342, September.
    4. Audrey Light, 2004. "Gender differences in the marriage and cohabitation income premium," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 263-284, May.
    5. Shanta Pandey & Jeoung-hee Kim, 2008. "Path to Poverty Alleviation: Marriage or Postsecondary Education?," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 166-184, March.
    6. Ronald Mincy & Jennifer Hill & Marilyn Sinkewicz, 2009. "Marriage: Cause or mere indicator of future earnings growth?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(3), pages 417-439.
    7. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Patrick Kline & Emmanuel Saez, 2014. "Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States," NBER Working Papers 19843, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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